I’ve been trying lately to look up stuff online that happened before the Web. It’s like looking for fossils in atmosphere. And the paleowebic tools are pretty sucky. Take for example the San Jose Mercury News archive search. I happen to know there was a story in the business section of the paper in June 1986, about Hodskins Simone & Searls, the advertising agency in which I was a partner for many years. If I look up hodskins, nothing comes up. If I search from 1985 to 2008, three items come up, none relevant. (Well, one might be, but to find out I have to create an “archive account”, specifying a payment method, before proceeding. Kind of a high-friction system.)
It’s not that I want to pay nothing for putting the Mercury to the trouble of providing a service that costs their servers more than nothing. But the complete absence of a widespread and easy to use system for perusing archival material from multiple sources is one that I’d like to help the market solve.
I do have ideas. Stay tuned.